After fifteen weeks of full-time writing, I still don’t feel comfortable enough to call myself a writer. I guess that’s because I’m not getting paid. Currently. (Saying that, as a means to support myself, I’m a dog walker and carer, but I don’t regard that as my job, even though I get paid.) Still, I consider what I do—writing—as my job, and a full-time one at that.
My average working week is thirty-five to forty hours, and that excludes the time spent blogging or note-taking. It also excludes reading. Like most, I read for pleasure, so I find it hard to count it as work. However, I ensure I read a minimum of two hours a day to aid in my writing.
Paradoxes aside, I thought I’d end 2016 by reflecting on the first fifteen-weeks of being “a writer”, since I decided to quite my job and write full-time.
For me, the whole sitting down at the laptop and writing solidly for five-days a week isn’t the hard part. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s easy, either—as it’s not. All days are different: sometimes the words rush, others are more like the last, lethargic drip-drip-drip of a freshly squeezed lemon. What I mean is, I am happy to get on with the writing process, it’s the other things that come attached with writing full-time that can be tough.
By now, writing daily has become routine. I’ve become comfortable doing it and, more recently, dare I say it, confident. (At least more than I was, which was zilcho.) The front room—not the house—is my place of work, and distinguishing the two from each other has never been a problem, which is why I haven’t become insane from feeling house-bound.
Neither has spending most of my working day alone. Even after fifteen weeks. Fortunately, I have Cass by my side for company. (Literally: she loves to reside on the sofa beside me; even as I’m writing this post she’s there, bless her.) That may sound weird, even fruit-loopy, but it works for me. As does getting out the house to go for a walk or run, so I’m physically away from my place of work.
Saying that, I was recently surprised to feel a little jealous when hearing of all my friends’ Christmas work parties, though I’m not entirely sure why, other than the simple reason of not having one of my own. Hey, Cass, let’s go party. Now that is fruity-loopy.
For the most part, though (which is when it really matters), working alone hasn’t been a problem. So far.
One of the big omissive attachments to writing is, obviously, the income. Currently.
I feel a lot more comfortable about this now than I did when I first started. This mostly stemmed from the guilt of not earning when I felt I should be, as that’s what most people my age are expected to do.
I’m having to live a lot like a student again, which after two years of work took a little readjustment. (First world problems, I know.) Fortunately, I’ve never been an over-indulgent spender. It also helps I’ve fitted my brain with an override button which I press every time I think about spending money, which sounds the voice of logic and reason (and boringness): do you really need this right now?
I’ve always told myself not to be too money conscious; that I never wanted to be one of those people. (Easier said than done.) As Marge Gunderson says in Fargo, “There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day.”
In late October, I became a dog carer to help supplement the writer’s penniless lifestyle. Although I’ve set aside a lump of my savings for the specific purpose of supporting myself, it makes me feel better that I have an income again and that all my money isn’t out going.
The BIGGEST reason for this concern is due to knowing that I’m on a path with a foggy way ahead: I don’t know how much farther there is to go or where the path will lead to.
I don’t know how long Everborne is going to take to write, yet I am committed to write it, and I want to see it through to the end, whatever the end.
What I’m doing right now makes me happy. I enjoy every single day, always looking forward to the next—including the tough ones. When I compare myself to Tom of this time last year, I know I’m infinitely happier now. I’m no longer working a job that consumed, stressed and depressed me; I’m working one I’m truly passionate about, which allows me to look ahead to the future with much excitement. I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing.
Knowing and accepting the way ahead is foggy is, in the words of John Nash from A Beautiful Mind, terrifying, mortifying, petrifying, stupefying. Yet, looking ahead to 2017 and thinking this could be my year of writing doesn’t terrify, mortify, petrify or stupefy me. It excites me.
It helps I took more part-time work at M&S over the Christmas week, which I was very fortunate to come by and rather enjoyed (minus the smell of uncooked turkey). I know I’m doing what I can to make my dream possible, and to get myself along that foggy path as comfortably as possible. This, I know, is due to that quiet voice at the back of my head which is always asking what if you fail? I never answer, truth be told. (I don’t know how.)
Though I try not to think too far ahead. Right now, I can’t see beyond February. My focus is on when I’ll have my first quarter/fifth of Everborne written and handed out to my reading circle. I know I’ll continue writing more beyond that, but that’s all I know.
When I spoke about my fateful dog-walk meeting the other week, I forgot to mention Mr Author said that, to him, the most important thing was confidence. Something, like many people, I’ve always been in short supply of. I’ve never had bucket loads, let alone a single bucket—if I have, it’s always had holes drilled into its bottom and sides.
Confidence, though, has come with time, much like the drip-drip-drip formation of a stalactite. I’m hoping my stalactite will continue to grow; no doubt there will be cracks and breaks along the way, I just hope someone won’t come along and snap it off completely.
Every page and chapter written has helped me gain confidence, especially when I think this is my best one yet—and I’ve felt that a few times, so it’s good to think I’m continually besting myself. As well as feeling stupendously, prodigiously, ubiquitously nervous about having the people I love read the work I love come February, I’m also starting to feel confident about it, too. (I’m sure this’ll change when the time actually comes.)
Committing to writing also means putting the breaks on other commitments. (Though, as I said here, I’m writing at a time when my commitments are so few, and I doubt there will ever be a better time for it.) I’m at an age where many of my friends are moving into flats with their other halves—even my older brothers, who admittedly have a few years on me, have both moved to the opposite corners of the world to lead exciting new lives—yet, due to writing, I’m at home with my parents, in order to keep costs down. (Which Mr Author also said was very important.)
Thankfully, this isn’t a problem for me, and working from home has gone very well so far. I’m very fortunate to have two incredibly supportive parents, who have unflinchingly—not even a blink—been behind me and my decision, ever since I first feebly suggested it. I’ve become a lot more confident in my decision since, and this is in no small part due to them.
Emily, too, has also been wonderful. As well as supporting my decision, she’s always there asking how my day’s writing has gone, how I thought the past week went, and what I’ll be doing next week. Not to forget, she’s also there to tease me when I text myself with a new idea. “Oooo I’m Tom and I like to text myself to pretend I’m getting messages from friends.” She listened to my ideas when they were sparks sputtering into life, and she continues to do so now, as the flames stretch.
My friends and extended family, who often ask how I’m getting on, have also been supportive and have shown a genuine interest in what I’m doing. The reason I don’t struggle that much when it comes to spending the day alone is owed to their revitalising encouragement.
I may be the one writing Everborne, but its existence is down to every single one of the people who have helped and continue to help me along the way.
The path may be foggy, but no step is taken alone.
As well as keeping costs down, there’s another benefit to living at home with my parents. In their kitchen cabinet is a plate I decorated at Poole Pottery. Its rim is speckled green and yellow with dollopy paint, while its white face bears my name and a single image in red and blue, splitting the date, 2000.
The image is of a pen.
This surprises me. I would’ve thought at the age of nine I’d’ve painted a brush, as I was more into my drawing than my writing at that age. Apparently nine-year-old Tom thought otherwise.
I don’t look at this plate every day. On some, I forget it’s even there. When I do glance up at it, though, it’s always a nice reminder. I’m doing what I love—what I’ve loved for longer than I’ve realised. (I thought it was in Sixth Form that I decided I wanted to become a published author.) It’s tough and it means sacrifice, but no reward ever came without risk.
At least, once I reach the end of the foggy path, I can look back without regret and be proud for having taken the journey.
Like Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, may this foggy path and its way lead onto way.
May you have a wondrous, happy 2017. I hope it gives you the opportunities to do the things you love the most or have always dreamed of doing. If not, make them happen.
(A photo from yesterday’s walk with my parents, Emily and Cass in Penshurst—aptly foggy!)